Controversial Issues in Association Meetings

Controversial issues may be brought up and disruptions may occur at PTA meetings. An informed and alert PTA executive board can guard against disruptions, as will consistently applied ground rules. A sense of fair play will help handle most situations.

The president, first vice president, and parliamentarian should possess a good working knowledge of parliamentary procedure and how to apply it effectively.

The president presides during the program presentation as well as during the business meeting, with support from the parliamentarian and other executive board members. The president never turns the meeting over to another member, but calls on another member to make a presentation or introduce a speaker.

When dealing with difficult interruptions, the presiding officer should maintain poise in the face of interruption. An unruffled attitude reflects that the president is in control.

Allow the “interrupter” to make his/her statement, listening carefully to see where the subject might fit into the topic under discussion. If the point made is irrelevant (or not germane) to the motion on the floor, the chairman should point out that fact.

Be courteous in dealing with the interruption. In spite of apparent negative reaction from the audience, the person speaking may have a valid point or a suggestion worth investigating.

If the discussion—and the situation in general—appears to be getting out of hand, the president can decide to recess the meeting for a short time to allow people to calm down or may determine immediately the time and date of a special meeting to focus on the issue.

People Are Entitled to Their Opinions

PTA has bylaws, policies, and procedures under which it operates.

While PTA respects the rights of individuals, it also has a responsibility to conduct business in a fair and dignified manner.

If the “disruption” goes on and on, the president may use one of the following:

“Ms. _____, your point is well taken, but this issue is not currently on the agenda. We do have a program commitment and an obligation to carry it through. Perhaps we could speak later.” (Then continue with the agenda.)

“Mr. _____, we appreciate your comments on this subject, and if there is no objection, the chairman would like to appoint a committee (now or following the meeting) to study the issue, research the information, and report back at a future meeting.” (It’s a good idea to include that person on the committee.)

“Mrs. _____, the issue you raise doesn’t fall within the nonpartisan (or whatever) policy of PTA. However, we do appreciate your sharing the information with us.”

Remember, no one expects the president to be perfect … only poised and prepared to carry through. Executive board members should know parliamentary authority – and how to apply it – to help the president handle uncomfortable situations.

When Tempers Flare

“The chairman recognizes there are many different opinions, but let’s hope we can disagree ‘agreeably.’ That is, after all, the democratic process, isn’t it?”

When the situation is getting out of hand, don’t pretend everything is all right. Instead of becoming flustered, inject a sense of humor.

“My mother said there’d be times like this!”
-or-
“Let’s call a truce—and look into the problem together.”

Helpful Parliamentary Procedure

The chairman should recognize the privilege of each individual to agree or disagree with the views stated by the speaker. The speaker is stating his/her own opinions and is not asking for conclusions from the audience, so interruptions are inappropriate. Honest differences of opinion may be discussed at the close of the meeting.

Board members with a good background in parliamentary procedure can aid the president with helpful motions at opportune times.

Rules to Keep in Mind

While people other than PTA members may be present at the meeting, the privilege of making motions, debating and voting shall be limited to the members of the association who are present and whose dues are paid and who have been association members for at least the previous thirty (30) days.

At least twenty-four (24) hours’ notice, in writing, must be given to the president to request to have an order of business or an announcement placed on the executive board agenda. At least fourteen (14) days’ notice, in writing, must be given to the president to request an item of business or an announcement be placed on the association agenda. New items of business or announcements brought to association meetings that have never been considered by the executive board should be referred to a committee or the executive board for study. No action may be taken on any agenda item that has not been properly noticed.

Any non-PTA material distributed at an association meeting must be reviewed and approved by the executive board prior to the meeting.

Unless the association has a special rule, no member can speak more than twice to the same question on the same day (Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised, Section 42).

For additional information, see Parliamentary Procedure.

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